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As confusion about maize spread so did fake news

This was unofficially Kenya Maize Week as the government’s intervention to reduce the cost of flour became a trending topic.

There were, and perhaps still are, many questions about the measures taken, the import of maize from Mexico, or is it Durban, and how millers were compelled to reduce the price. It was also fertile ground for fake news.

1. That Mexico has denied selling maize to Kenya and called President Uhuru Kenyatta a conman.

Classic fake news, this one had a website address that sounded genuine,, a genuine photograph of Mexican ambassador Erasmo Martinez. It was spread through WhatsApp.

But, it was easy to notice the ungrammatical English and the unusual phrasing. The links to several websites with the usual clickbait about quick solutions to issues such as weight loss and diabetes was a dead giveaway. It also attributed some rather crude language to a diplomat with the “conman” accusation.

The correct position, as later stated by the Mexican ambassador in a press statement, was: “In the past few weeks, Mexican companies have been selling high quality non-GMO white maize to Kenyan counterparts. Since these are private sector operations, the embassy will not, and has not made any kind of declaration on these commercial transactions.” The “any kind of declaration” was in reference to the rude declaration on the fake news post.

2. That Nasa leader Raila Odinga has rushed to court to stop the government from having maize flour sold at Sh90 for a two-kilo packet.

This was sent around on WhatsApp on Tuesday, a day before the Agriculture ministry unveiled the subsidy plan. This time, the fake news piggybacked on 411, the breaking news text message service ran by Capital FM.

A keen reader would have noticed the oddities: the message was longer than the character limit on breaking news text and the phrasing was casual.

The correct position, as quickly pointed out by Dennis Onyango, Mr Odinga’s spokesman, on Facebook was: “Hon Raila Odinga has not gone to court seeking to stop sale of cheap Unga. Capital FM has equally not released any alert to that effect.”

He added: “The one doing rounds is a creation of Jubilee which is struggling to explain how a ship travelled from Mexico to Kenya in three days.”